On Wednesday 11th November, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 2 of EventLAB 2020 Online, which was all about The Event Experience, Project Safety & Success.
The penultimate discussion of the morning was all about the impact Coronavirus has had on immersive events, as well as trend forecasts for 2021. Our esteemed panel was made up of Sarah Virani, Partnerships & Marketing Manager at Regent Street Cinema; Sheena Patel, Director of YonderBeyond; Jenny McNeill, Co-Founder & Food Director of Flavourology; and Sanj Surati, Digital Atelier/Founder of Tiger Heart.
Watch the full session below and read on for the key takeaways.
What is an immersive experience?
The term ‘immersive’ has most often been used in terms of an audience within the digital realm. So, when this is translated into live events, it’s about putting your audience at the heart of the action or narrative and shifting their role from a passive participant to a more active one, all while disengaging them from their normal day-to-day life.
The evolution to virtual
At a live immersive experience, you can control and engage your participants at every touchpoint. This year, immersive experiences have had to pivot to virtual or hybrid experiences, which has been a struggle when these experiences traditionally rely so heavily on physical locations. Planners are needing to learn a new ‘art form’ of creating immersive experiences within the digital world that goes beyond just a visual experience.
Exploring narratives with technology
More and more planners are exploring augmented reality. AR adds a digital layer over an existing space, which could be useful when considering how to scale location-based experiences. For example, you could theoretically build just one stage set which could then be transformed into several sets using AR, saving significant time and resources. AR could also be used as a means of engaging audiences at home, as it can be used through a mobile phone as opposed to VR which requires a headset.
AR is a device which gives agency and a degree of control over how the narrative unfolds, which is important in immersive experiences.
The financial challenge
Immersive experiences normally involve a heavy investment up-front, as well as more associated costs and fees than other types of events. This, in turn, means ticket prices tend to be higher in order to make profit, and so this becomes a barrier for entry for many participants, especially if they’re not clear on the value proposition.
To overcome this, word of mouth is key. Once a participant has attended an immersive experience, they know what they’re getting and therefore why the ticket price is so high, but to get the audience there in the first place can be tricky.
A group experience
Immersive experiences are typically very group-focused. A challenge with creating immersive experiences in the current climate is that social distancing is still in place, and is likely to be for a long time. This means it’s important to ensure participants know they’re safe during the event and that they pass that message on to friends/family/colleagues, as this will reassure others and may encourage them to attend too.
What is the most powerful emotion in immersive?
Wonder! These experiences give you the opportunity to indulge in environments that you don’t normally have access to. The audience is put at the heart of the action and allowed to be the best version of themselves. Sarah notes that in cinema, the most powerful experiences are those that hark back to a human truth, such as a tearjerker or a tragedy.
It feels like in the corporate world we've been starting to dip our toe in these immersive experience waters...What would you recommend we should be thinking about so as not to lose momentum?
Jenny: Immersive experiences definitely lend themselves better to some industries or brands than others and it tends to be the ones with the bigger budgets who have already dipped their toes and made waves. However, as experience designers, we’ve created immersive events for all sorts of industries from fashion retail to financial services, you just need to find the human angle to show how the consumer can benefit from your brand in real terms.
When planning whether immersive is for you, think about the message you need to tell and how that might translate to an emotional connection or story. Some brands use immersive trickery to reposition their brand - perhaps people thought of them as outmoded or low quality and they need to reinvent for today’s audience. Others employ immersive techniques to launch a new product/service and cut through the noise to get the press to engage with them.
To try not to lose momentum in these times. Consider how your brand could benefit from hybrid events. Creating a virtual world which is reinforced by things sent to attendees to experience virtually. We recently created a box for the launch of the new Witches film. A pre-release link was sent to influencers (family & young adult) and at the same time, we delivered an interactive box complete with ‘Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse Maker’ colour-changing cocktail, food inspired by the film (e.g. Wisconsin cheese blondie trapped in a mouse trap), the book, sofa blanket etc.
About The Speakers
Sarah Virani, Partnerships & Marketing Manager, Regent Street Cinema
Sarah joined the management team at Regent Street Cinema in August 2020, where she has led the marketing and communications re-brand and website build. Alongside her responsibilities to drive box office ticket sales, Sarah supports the venue hire sales team.
Sheena Patel, Director, YonderBeyond
Sheena has spent the past decade devising and delivering live events, experiential campaigns and immersive attractions. She supports some of London’s most exciting experience agencies to create meaningful experiences that resonate with audiences and is interested in how physical experiences can be made more accessible by integration with immersive technology.
Jenny McNeill, Co-Founder & Food Director, Flavourology
Jenny McNeill co-founded Flavourology in 2017 to create a B2B sister company to immersive dining pioneers, Gingerline. Flavourology are the go-to experts for multi-sensory content creation, delivering brand activations and corporate experiences which truly tell a story.
Sanj Surati, Digital Atelier/Founder of Tiger Heart
Sanj is an award-winning multi-disciplined Digital Atelier with over twenty years of experience within the music, fashion and luxury industries. Tiger Heart is his new home where his speciality is working with technology to develop new live digital experiences for the purpose of product launches, retail experiences and experiential events.
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Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.